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05/10/2018by Katie Bray

Should a community school follow its own or the local authority's standing orders on contracting when procuring goods or services?

Community schools are maintained schools run by the local authority whereby the local authority employs the staff, owns the land and buildings etc. Under section 19, Education Act 2002, every maintained school must have a governing body, which is a body corporate and the governing body's broad powers contained in paragraph 3 of Schedule 1 include the power to enter into contracts. Like the local authority, schools (as contracting authorities) are bound by the public procurement rules.

 

Although in principle, the Schools’ governing Body is the one that enters into contracts on behalf of the school, the local authority may still be held responsible for the governing body's actions in exercising their powers. For example, under Section 49(5), School Standards and Framework Act 1998) a maintained school's delegated budget and any amount made available by the local authority to the governing body remains the property of the authority until it is spent by the governing body and when spent by the governing body is taken as spent by the body as the authority's agent. In this way, third parties can claim against the local authority as principal for losses arising from the school's defaults. As such, it is standard practice for some local authorities to require their schools to adhere to their own (or specially devised for schools) contracts procedure rules or standing orders concerning their contracting.

 

It is important to note that a community school is required to comply with any relevant obligations under Part 4 of the Public Contracts Regulations 2015 (PCR 2015) in relation to its award of any below threshold contracts regardless of whether the school adheres to its own or the local authority’s contracting procedures. For example, if the contact is above £25,000 but below the relevant threshold, it will need to publish any award information on Contracts Finder.

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